Cell phone companies see increase in use

Students have flooded the campus in record numbers this year, and along with them came cellular phones.

According to a study conducted on Aug. 12 through Aug. 21 by Verizon Wireless, the total network use of wireless phones increased by 38 percent. During the peak hour of 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., cellular use increased by 83 percent compared to the rest of the summer.

"On average, college students are becoming a larger portion of a wireless user base," said Michelle Gilbert, spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless. "And we expect this trend to continue."

Phone companies are having no trouble adjusting.

"The busier we are, the happier we are, " said Kris Groninger, manager of Simply Wireless,1310 E. McGaillard Rd.

Groninger said Simply Wireless gets 250 new customers each month and that improving technology is a major factor that brings students into electronic stores.

Verizon Wireless has spent $155 million over the past two years upgrading their cell network, upgrading cell towers and building new towers, Gilbert said.

Many factors contribute to this recent increase in wireless usage, with one being the technology itself.

"It's more than just ordinary cell phones," said Groninger. "These are hand-held computers where you can check your e-mail, grades, and browse the internet. "

But capitalism plays a role, too.

"Having a cell phone has become a commodity," said Robert Shupp, professor of economics.

"Usage is widespread and that means there will be lots of competition and competition drives prices down," Shupp explained.

"Competition is tough, but they really have no choice but to match other companies, hoping that people will run out of minutes which equals more money," he added.

Gilbert attributes this trend to a different way of thinking that has sprouted up over the past several years.

"This is the first generation to grow up thinking cell phones are a necessity rather than a luxury. This age group is very tech-savvy and they're having fun with it, too," Gilbert said.

Ball State sophomore Latasha Williams is one student that has been added to the group.

Williams decided to buy her phone seven months ago from Cingular Wireless.

"I was trying to call home a lot and spending lots of money on phone cards," she said.

Williams said she then began looking at different cell phone packages and realized that she could save more money when calling her family and friends.

Freshman Jennifer Storer joined the cell crowd three years ago at the urging of her parents.

"It's nice to have in case of emergencies; it's the only reason I have it," she said.